Prototypicality, distinctiveness, and intercorrelation: analyses of the semantic attributes of living and nonliving concepts

Garrard, P., Lambon Ralph, M.A., Hodges, J.R. and Patterson, K. (2001) Prototypicality, distinctiveness, and intercorrelation: analyses of the semantic attributes of living and nonliving concepts. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 18, (2), 125-174. (doi:10.1080/02643290125857).


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Many cognitive psychological, computational, and neuropsychological approaches to the organisation of semantic memory have incorporated the idea that concepts are, at least partly, represented in terms of their fine-grained features. We asked 20 normal volunteers to provide properties of 64 concrete items, drawn from living and nonliving categories, by completing simple sentence stems (e.g., an owl is __, has __, can__). At a later date, the same participants rated the same concepts for prototypicality and familiarity. The features generated were classified as to type of knowledge (sensory, functional, or encyclopaedic), and also quantified with regard to both dominance (the number of participants specifying that property for that concept) and distinctiveness (the proportion of exemplars within a conceptual category of which that feature was considered characteristic). The results demonstrate that rated prototypicality is related to both the familiarity of the concept and its distance from the average of the exemplars within the same category (the category centroid). The feature database was also used to replicate, resolve, and extend a variety of previous observations on the structure of semantic representations. Specifically, the results of our analyses (1) resolve two conflicting claims regarding the relative ratio of sensory to other kinds of attributes in living vs. nonliving concepts; (2) offer new information regarding the types of features - across different domains - that distinguish concepts from their category coordinates; and (3) corroborate some previous claims of higher intercorrelations between features of living things than those of artefacts.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1080/02643290125857
ISSNs: 0264-3294 (print)
Related URLs:
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Medicine > Clinical Neurosciences
ePrint ID: 48418
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
March 2001Published
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2007
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:24

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